[Marxism] The Teixeira thesis

Mike Friedman mikedf at amnh.org
Sat Mar 6 11:28:02 MST 2004

... and let us correct you (again): the Democratic Party has no "working 
class base" (support -- electoral support, that is -- is entirely another 

It's worth keeping in mind Michael Parenti's description of U.S. political 

"The parties are loose conglomerates of local factions organized around one 
common purpose: the pursuit of office .... But even as they evade most 
important policy questions and refrain from commitment to distinct, 
coherent programs, the parties have a conservative effect on the 
consciousness of the electorate and on the performance of representative 
government. They operate from a commonly shared ideological perspective 
which is best served by the avoidance of certain ideas and the suppression 
or cooptation of dissenters."

And Thomas R. Dye and L. Harmon Zeigler's (The Irony of 
Democracy),  comment that:

"American parties do, in fact, subscribe to the same fundamental political 
ideology. Both the Democratic and the Republican parties have reflected the 
prevafling elite consensus on basic democratic values the sanctity of 
private property, a free enterprise economy, individual liberty, limited 
government, majority rule, and due process of law.... Rather than promoting 
competition over national goals and programs, the parties reinforce 
societal consensus and limit the area of legitimate political conflict.

Noting that "the voters cannot influence public policy by choosing between 
parties," Dye and Zeigler state: "Elections are primarily a symbolic 
exercise for the masses to help tie them to the established order."

It's true that many working class people vote for the Democrats, and that 
of *these* voters, disproportionate fractions are Black and Latino. This 
occurs as the result of decades of support by labor bureaucrats and other 
mis-leaders, the lack of alternatives and the persistent "Rooseveltian 
myth" of the worker-friendly Democratic Party (and you would have the tail 
wag the dog: we should follow the backward workers in their support of the 
Democrats, rather than trying to lead them out of that morass). It was 
particularly true during the post-WWII boom period, during which (mostly 
white) workers ) won tangible improvements in their standards of living 
(although the Black middle class grew as well, largely with the expansion 
of the public sector).

Over the last two decades, however, voting patterns among workers, 
particularly white, blue-collar workers, have changed as a result of the 
bipartisan attacks on workers' living standards. Significant and increasing 
numbers of these workers have chosen to vote Republican, or to split their 
ballots. Following Gandall's reasoning, perhaps we should work within the 
Republican Party, as well.

The bottom line, as several on this list have pointed out, is that voting 
for the Democrats hardly makes workers a coherent party "base," if, during 
the remaining 364 days of the year, they have nothing to do with party 
politics. "Supporters" or even "cheering section" is the more appropriate 
term, given the utter lack of protagonism, the dispersal, the passivity 
characterizing the working class Democratic Party electoral "base." The 
workers who own shares in a corporation have a more active and 
participatory presence than this alleged working-class Democratic Party 
base. Are they the (or "a") "base" of the corporation? Should we all 
purchase stocks and "go to the workers" at shareholders' meetings, perhaps 
help to "shape" the corporate agenda, and build a "grassroots" movement 
within the corporation?

On the other hand, it's also true that some of the "grass-roots" 
participate on a more long-term basis as delegates or campaigners. It would 
be interesting to find out how many and what percentage of these more 
committed members are rank-and-file workers, as opposed, say, to union 
leaders, heads of various Democrat-affiliated community organizations and 
liberals and leftists of various stripes. In absolute terms, they would, 
most assuredly, represent an overall minority of working class, Black, 
Latino and Native American people, of both genders. I would also be curious 
to know what percentage of such leading bodies as the DNC, the DBC (none) 
or the DLC are rank-and-file workers.

In "The Lesser Evil" Leni Brenner offered a breakdown of voters and 
delegates from a 1984 N.Y. Times/CBS poll which could be accepted with the 
proviso that things have probably become even more skewed: while 22% of 
democratic voters made less than $12,500, only 3% of delegates fell into 
that category. At the other end, only 5% of democratic voters made over 
$50,000, while 42% of delegates were at the upper expreme.

The true "base" of the democratic party, in the sense of participants 
having "voice and vote" in its decisions, are those business interests that 
purchase the commodity called "political power" in a thousand different 
ways (not simply campaign finance) and dominate its policy-formulating and 
decision-making bodies and selection processes. However, since so much data 
is available, a good starting point is campaign finances. Even some of 
Gandall's entryist colleagues (we could call them "embedded socialists") 
reported in a February 2001 Monthly Review commentary that:

"The bankruptcy of the US electoral system is not merely that it is well 
under the thumb of the rich and powerful and has a range of debate more 
suitable to a quasi-dictatorship than to a self-governing people. It is 
also that the electoral and governing systems have became grotesquely 
corrupt. [...] Corporate domination of the electoral process in the United 
States is locked in by a campaign system that requires enormous sums of 
money for candidates to have almost any chance of being victorious. The 
cost of the 2000 federal election campaigns was well over three billion 
dollars, up some 40 percent from 1996, which was up 40 percent again from 
1992. [...] Most of this money comes from powerful and wealthy corporations 
and individuals. Ninety percent of the money that comes from individual 
campaign contributions, for example, comes from the wealthiest 1 percent of 

"Senator Russell Feingold (D-Wisconsin) has accurately described the 
electoral system as one of legalized bribery and legalized extortion. 
Corporations need to make hefty campaign contributions to guarantee a slice 
of the action when Washington doles out the goodies. Hence, scores of major 
corporations gave at least one hundred thousand dollars to both political 
parties in 2000. Rupert Murdochs News Corporation was a classic example of 
how two-party politics works nowadays. His Fox News Channel served as 
little more than a propaganda dispenser for the Bush campaign in 2000; at 
the same time Murdoch was funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars to the 
Democrats and candidate Gore. That way, whichever party wins, Murdoch wins. 
And so it is for the wealthy and corporate America. The room for maneuver 
against the interests of capital in mainstream US political culture -- 
never very pronounced -- has all but disappeared. And in the screw you, I'm 
out for number one culture that comes with the rule of money, the entire 
governing process has become a stinking cesspool of corruption. The bamboo 
prison of class rule has become an iron cage." 

Nevertheless, the authors of this article hold out hope that the Democrats 
can be reformed and once again become fertile ground for grass-roots 
movement building.

In more concrete terms, according to a report in the January 9, 2004 
Bennington (Vermont) Banner by Cox News Service's Andrew Mollison "the 
major contenders in this year's presidential election, which is on track to 
become by far the most expensive in history, have all done public policy 
favors for their big contributors during their time in office, the Center 
for Public Integrity reported Thursday." Mollison then went on to list the 
Democratic contenders and their principal sponsors:

"Wesley Clark's top career patrons are Citigroup, $6,250; Skadden, Arps, 
Slate, Meaher & Flom, $5,950, and Sullivan & Cromwell, $5,500."

"Howard Dean's top career patrons are Time Warner, $65,225; Microsoft 
Corp., $25,100, and IBM Corp., $23,250."

"John Edwards' top career patrons are Shangri-La Entertainment and Stephen 
Bing, $907,000; Baron & Budd of Dallas, $408,250, and Girardi & Keese, 

"Richard Gephardt's top career patrons are Anheuser-Busch, $518,750; Bryan 
Cave LLP, $333,262, and Teamsters Union, $249,317."

"John Kerry's top career patrons are Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky 
and Popeo, $230,796; FleetBoston Financial Corp., $182,387, and Time 
Warner, $140,710."

"Joe Lieberman's top career patrons are Citigroup, $110,546; Hartford 
Financial Services Group Inc., $83,650, and Goldman Sachs Group, $80,250."

"Dennis Kucinich's top career patrons are the United Auto Workers, $53,534; 
Machinists and Aerospace Workers Union, $45,000, and Teamsters Union, $41,250."

"Al Sharpton's top career patrons are Inner City Broadcasting Corp., 
$27,300; Zoe Ministries, $15,400, and Don King Productions inc., $15,400."

Mollison also reported some of the "public policy favors" purchased by the 

"From January 2002 until two weeks after declaring his intention to seek 
the presidency, General Wesley Clark received up to $830,000 for his work 
as a registered lobbyist for Acxiom Corp., a firm seeking terrorism-related 
federal contracts while Clark "was offering expert commentary on the War on 
Terror" on CNN."

"When governor, Howard Dean pushed for utility contract provisions that 
"cost Vermont families millions of dollars," but pleased Central Vermont 
Public Service Corp., which donated more than $10,000 to Dean's Fund for a 
Healthy America PAC."

Richard Gephardt "tried at least five times to lower taxes on alcohol, 
which would have helped his home-state patron, Anheuser-Busch."

John Kerry "consistently supported most lobbying positions of the wireless 
telecommunications industry, which includes clients of Mintz, Levin - a 
Boston law firm that includes his brother and some former classmates, and 
has an affiliate headed by Kerry's former chief of staff."

Liberal Dennis Kucinich, that stalwart of the international working class 
(or at least its *ahem* leaders),  "has consistently voted in favor of 
union causes, opposing free trade and favoring protectionism."

And "moral" Joe Lieberman: "After receiving hundred of thousands of dollars 
in contributions from biotechnology companies," the senator from 
Connecticut "hired the industry's top lobbyist for his staff" and introduce 
and co-sponsored bills for which this sector lobbied."

At one point Julio Huato sarcastically responded to Lou Proyect's point 
regarding the 'unbase-like' qualities  of the Democrats' working class 
electorate, asserting that by Lou's reasoning, the Democratic Party is 
based on the party bureaucrats. Not so: the machine hacks, like the 
candidates, are beholden to (or are) the employers. Brenner extensively 
documented the "ties that bind" local party machines to capital. For 
example, Brenner quoted liberal authors Thomas Ferguson and Joel Rogers:

"In many parts of the Northeast, real estate interests are almost 
indistinguishable from the local political machines."

Ferguson and Rogers also noted that :

"... real estate developers and investment bankers are disproportionately 
Democratic compared to all investors, and disproportionately willing to 
support liberal Democrats."

Brenner, citing a February 27, 1987 New York Times article titled, 
"Stalking the 1988 Money Hunters," which discussed Democratic candidates' 
pursuit of donors, said, "Again, the key words were "real estate." There 
was Calvin Guest, a Texas reat estate and banking executive... Nathan 
Landow, a real estate developer... Thomas B. Rosenberg, a Chicago real 
estate executive... Stephen D. Moses, a Los Angeles real estate developer,,,"

Brenner also quoted Brian Summal, a journalist for the Baltimore Sun, who 
"declares that 'although plump cat contributors to all campaigns number 
less than 50,000, they are responsible for about two-thirds of the total 
dollars Democrats raised.' The stock market crash of 1987 put this into 
perspective . It sharply curtailed the amount of disposable income 
available to the upper middle class. But that didn't worry San Francisco 
broker Phil Schaefer, a Bear Stearn director and Dukakis fundraiser: 'I'll 
go to the very rich--they still have money.' And so he (they) did."

Capital is the only coherent force or base behind the Democrats. The 
atomized and dispersed working-class electorate that votes Democrat is 

> >political office. Let me correct that. It also differs from the
> >Democrats in another respect: it has no working class base  or support
> >in the labour movement.

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